tv Charlie Rose PBS August 15, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm PDT
>> rose: welcome to our program, tonight a special edition, that, the charlie brain series year two, and the second episode we focus on conscious and unconscious in the brain. >> we will learn how much progress has been played in the last two decades in beginning to understand consciousness, disorders of consciousness and unconscious mental processes. >> part two of the brain series. >> it is about the most exciting scientific journey of our time. >> understanding the brain. the series is made possible by a grant from the simons foundation, their mission is is to advance the frontiers of research in the basic sciences and mathematics. >> funding for charlie rose was provided by the following.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> tonight we continue our exploration of the woners of the human brain. for this program we examine the brain's most complex function consciousness. here is what saying mutual fund freud says the it may be compared to a fountain playing in the stun and falling a back into the subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises, consciousness remains one of the great mysteries of human existence when scientists today are ask what pose it is greatest challenge in modern science they answer consciousness. it is is the mind separate from the body? how can interior subjective lives be explained? what is awareness itself? these questions inspire a search to understand the very essence of what it means to be human. from the time of aristotle and plato these ideas were often contemplated by philosophers,
many religions think of consciousness and living in a soul that survives the physical body after death. but with the rise of cognitive neuroscience over the last century we know now and better understand the biological underpinnings of consciousness and know everything the body does from our sense of sight and smell to our sense of self is a result of neuroactivity in brain yet questions still remain. some define the current study of consciousness as the pursuit to disentangle its neural circuitry, this is the first step in our effort to ask about the nature of the inner experience, one way scientists have begun this study is to look at correlations between brain activity and different states of consciousness. why are we consciously able to pick up a pencil but unconscious of the sequence of muscle contract shunls that allow us to hold it? on a more profound level, how do neuroconnections
actually create a sense of objectivity? for instance, how do we know that our perception of the color red isn't another person's idea of green? >> we will also explore the importance of the unconscious, how do events we may not be aware of actually shape our experience of the world and the decisions we make. are people we perceive as unconscious really unaware? tonight, we explore these and other questions with a remarkable group of scientists, patricia church land is a professor of philosophy at the university of california in san diego and an adjunct professor at the salk institute. >> stanislas dehaene is a cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist at the college de france in paris. timothy will on is a professor of psychology at the university of virginia and the author of redirect, the surprising new science of psychological change. nicholas schiff is a gerard b
cats professor of neurology and neuroscience in weill cornell medical college and once again my cohost is dr. eric kandel, a nobel laureate, professor at columbia university and a howard hughes medical investigator. this is going to be fun. >> tell me, is it really true one of the great questions is about consciousness? >> it is the greatest question, in all of science, and certainly the deepest question is brain science, and the amazing thing is, as we sensed in the last program, that this is an area of knowledge that we thought was primitive and i think what we are going to learn today an amazing amount of progress has occurred in the last decade and a half. we not only have a better understanding of unconscious processes, but also of conscious processes, of disorders of consciousness. and we are going to learn a lot from this. to begin with, it is important
to realize that consciousness is not a unitary faculty of mind. there are different stages, that range from coma to deep sleep to waking up from sleep to stumbling around, to recognizing people, to enjoyin being present with people, to initiating voluntary actions, these are all aspects of consciousness. and they really happen in a single day's events. for example when you wake up from a deep sleep, you stumble out of bed, you mba make your way to the bathroom to wash your face the and brush your teeth, you go to the -- before you recognize her, pick up a cup of coffee and enjoy it. it arouses you even more, so you can sit down and enjoy the morning newspaper.
we understand consciousness better, these various stages because we realize we can analyze it from two separate dimensions. one is the dimension of arousal and vigilance, the degree to which you are really alert, the other dimension is the dimension of the content of conscious and unconscious process, howdo they vary from one another? let's begin with the area of arousal, vigilance. it use to be thought that consciousness depended upon sensory inflow into the cerebral cortex. and that was dramatically changed by constantine, a great viennese neurologist who was studying patients with flu during the flu epidemic of 1918. he found that a number of patients with influenza had been in a coma before they died, when they came to autopsy, he examined their sensory systems
and the sensory systems were completely intact, but when he looked carefully at the brain he noticed there was a leagues in the mid brain, upper area of the brain stem, and he called this the wakefulness area. this is his suggestion, people took it seriously but it was not a proven fact, but in 1948, 49, these giants of neuroscience, the italian scientists i didn't espy, clams rated together in a classic series of studies, they deprived the brain of the major sense i are inflow and they found this in no way interfered with consciousness and no way interfered with sleep, so they showed experimentally what economic o had derived the sensory systems are not necessary for wakefulness and conscious perception. however these are experimental animals. when they made a leagues in a
cat, in this mid brain area, the cat became comatose, and if in a normal cat they stimulated this area, they aroused it and could arouse it from deep sleep, so this provided clear evidence of the fact that the sensory, per ais not important, that there is an area this the brain and they called this area in the brain, the reticular activating system, it goes from the brain stem to the thalamus and projects diffusely to the whole cerebral cortex, and he is sort of the modern extension of magoo, he has been interested in patient whose have a disorder of consciousness. he has patients with coma and particularly patients with a particular variance are variant of that. patients who suffer from minimal conscious states. ,000 recess fascinating patients they can be comatose for five or ten years but periodically, over that long period they will show signs of spronlding to commands,
of interacting with people. and he imaged those patients and he thought that the cerebral cortex would be severely damaged, to his amazement he found it was completely intact, what was damaged was this particular thalamus and the brain stem. and so he wondered whether the lack of consciousness is due to the fact that is search bral cortex simply but not being stimulated enough by the very tick dollar activating system so he got the idea of artificially stimulating it and he put an electrode into the deep brain stimulation like you in do park sonsñr patients and he found tht these patients who are very rarely in a conscious state now moved into the conscious state more frequently. and we can also show one could do this with drugs. this is really quite amazing. in addition, to this insight into different levels of arousal we also have made a lot of progress in the nature of conscious and unconscious information. and this is something pat
churchill is going to tell us about. this came out of what is called the global work space hypothesis by bernard baws, he suggested that consciousness does not arise from a single point in the brain, that there are lots of places which it can arise but what consciousness really gets recruited, it propagates throughout the cerebral cortex. stan lis, stanislas dehaene has developed this and called the neural work space hypothesis and he showed you can image normal people when they are consciously per steeferg something and unconsciously. for example, if i were to show you a picture of stanislas dehaene very rapidly with a masking stimulus you would not consciously perceive it, through your visual cortex would light up showing something unconscious but you would not per steve him as stanislas dehaene but if you saw it more slowly without a masking, you clearly see him and look at the difference between
to the two perceptions, unconscious and conscious you see on the juan case it was restricted to the visual cortex. when you consciously per steve it, it propagates forward to the parietal and frontal cortex, it is a broadcasting of the information. this holds true when you per steve a tone, unconsciously and you per steve it consciously and if you deal with numbers, consciously, in each case, it is broadcast widely throughout the search federal cortex, really quite fantastic, the broadcasting of unconsciousness. while all of these studies were going on, wilson was studying the nature of unconscious processes, now freud, whom you cited before, made us realize that a lot of our mental state is unconscious, even you or i functioning unconsciously most of the time. consciousness is the tip of the iceberg. and when you looked at the nature of unconscious processes they pound in some ways it is even more subtle that freud appreciated. >> he appreciated the the
language of the unconscious was different in from the language of consciousness but did not appreciate in many circumstances your unconscious thinking process are better than your conscious ones. in consciousness you can only focus on one item at a time, i focus on charlie rose and i can't focus on anybody else. unconscious you can deal with several items simultaneously, so if you ever make the decision between two meat it was, consciousness is a way to, go if you have to make many alternatives the unconscious often leads to a more satisfactory solution so this is an amazing set of insights we will be treated to tonight. >> rose: all right for me this is as exciting as anything we have done, understanding consciousness. >> it is fantastic. in't want t go to this remarkable group of people we have put together, to understand conscious mind, unconscious mind, what it is that make us make the decisions that we do, we begin, brain series two, episode 2, with patricia church land. >> from a historical perspective, there really have
always been two traditions, one started with hip crates in age sthunlt greece who really did believe mental activity was nothing other than activity in the physical brain .. the other line was really initiated by plato who thought that there was some how and independent thing, the soul. now, this really got it fullest development with decarts in the 17th century and in his view there was a physical body and it had all of the properties that we understand about physical things, and then there was nonphysical soul that had no physical properties whatever. this was just a causal device, this had the properties of creativity, of perception, of feeling, of reason, and then how do they enter connect? and that was the crushing problem, that december cart could not, des cart could not solve, so fast
forward to the 19th century, the great german scientist .. who was both a fizzologist and psychologist and everything inbetween, was herman van helm holt. >> an extraordinary man. >> helms holt realized, he formulated the law of cons investigation of energy and realized that if by some miracle this nonphysical soul affected the body, that this well established physical law would be trashed. so helm holt said it is almost certainly destate appearances it is almost all physical, it is the brain. and then he -- what he did was study perception. and in the course of studying perception, he came to the realization that a lot of nonconscious processing is not just reflexes and dumb, it is adaptive and smart. >> it isçó creative, and one of the things that the brain, the
nonconscious brain is assemble basic bits of information from the sensory systems and makes and inference and i will show you some very scanty information that the brain will use to make an inference of a very complex sort. and so when you look at it is a series of black lights, it doesn't seem to mean anything, but when it begins to move, your brain makes an inference. it is a person. it is not just -- it is kicking. it is jumping, it is actually a man, and people think of it as being a young man. and all of this comes out of just movement of those small splotches. >> so helm holt realized the brain is very constructive, that the nonconscious brain sort of delivers to consciousness something that integrates across
a whole lot of information and brings information, stored as well as what is currently perceived. now i will say a little bit about freud, because i think freud picked up on this idea, now early freud was a phasologist and that means that he was interested in the various defects in the capacity to speak and freud, in thinking about speech made this very interesting observation which many of us have but he took it a step further. he noticed of course we don't consciously pick the words we are going to use, we don't consciously form the grammatical structure, that is some how all done for us nonconsciously and we just speak. in fact, i sort of know the gist of what i am going to say, but i don't know precisely what i am going to say until i say it. and so he too thought the nonconscious processes are not
stupid and reflexive and automatic, they are adaptive, they are smart, they are complex. fast forward again and now to about 1980, when vern for vars realized that many of the questions that came to us at the beginning of the 20th century were these. what is the difference in the brain when something is conscious and when it is not? >> what is the mechanism whereby something that is not conscious becomes conscious? and how smart really are nonconscious processes? and if they are really smart, what does that say for consciousness this is it just an empty phenomenon that is a nice glow that we like or is it functional? so he developed a framework and the framework tried to pull together certain ideas through psychology in such
a way that ultimately they would sit with neuroscience and we can see that now happening. the ideas were first of all that consciousness has a limited capacity. i can't pay attention to two conversations at once. it is also extremely important when we need to deal with a novel and complex problem. i walk into the kitchen, the electric stove is on fire, i need to be conscious in order to pull out of my knowledge the system that i better find the banking soda and dump it on. he also knew that whatever else is true about consciousness, that what we are aware of is the product of very complex integration, so when i look at your face, i don't consciously see eyes and an eyebrow and ears and mouth and say, ah, yes, that has to be, and oh look who that is, it just comes to me. i don't have to consciously
figure anything out. and so his question really was, what is the nature of all of that integration? that allows us to see something complex? and so bars then thought that these observations about the psychological character of consciousness could probably come to fit with developments in neuroscience if we knew what to look for. and that's what has happened. >> all right. stanislas dehaene let's talk about how you can approach, how you can approach consciousness empirically through a kind of experimentation. >> well as you know, there has been enormous progress in the ability to see the brain action, with brain imaging techniques and there is a whole variety of them that allows you to see the brain in three dimensions and also in the dimension of time and the main problem has been to try to find experimental
paradigms that would allow us to write bring into the labs conscious and unconscious and true thank to vars book scientists realized they had many techniques at their disposal and before that book i would say the question of consciousness in psychology was quite taboo, people did not speak about it or -- >> which would be -- >> it was unworthy problem. >> exactly. and with this, in fact there were many techniques that allowed us to play with consciousness in the lab, basically now we have an enormous variety of techniques that allow us to take any stimulus, any, maybe a face, maybe a word and we can play with it as well and make it come and go in and out of your consciousness as we wish. i am going to show you a demonstration of that, i we look at this difficult demonstration what we will see the words is one, two, three,
four and we flash them very quickly and still you see them, it is not really the speed with which they are presented that makes them invisible but what we are going to do now is we are going to take these words and very closely just before and just a after we are going to put other shapes and you should see the word four appears because -- okay. there was no word four. well the word four is still there on the screen, it is still there on the retina, it is being processed by the brain, but it is not conscious and there are other situations like that, where the brain flips between conscious and unconscious states. so this is sort of an ideal situation and we can use brain imaging tools and look and see what is the difference, right? so on the screen now what you see is what happens to a subliminal word, it starts individual cortex in the back of the brain and very active there and can have a lot of activity which is unconscious but a sort of dying wave, it is a wave that
comes inside the brain and after a few milliseconds it will day out without reaching the highest senses of the parietal and frontal cortex a. >> this is so surprising because i think if you were to ask most of us 30 years ago to what degree does an unconscious perception reach the search bral cortex, we would have said, no. >> processed inside the kor folks and in many different areas. >> very important finding. >> but when it is conscious, there is something quite different going on, it is amplification of activity and we see it now with the very same starting point, now activity in the brain is being amplified and after maybe a third of a second it becomes very large, it is like a tsunami instead of a dying wave and it gets into higher spots in the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex in the front of the brain, and from there, it is also a buy directional wave and goes back to the original spot where it started .. so it is a reverberation and this is the
broadcasting of information that occurs when you are conscious. so in terms of psychology, what happens when you are conscious is that the information comes available in this system, which becomes detached from the external world, the world is external, word is brief in the mind and it is stable in your mind and in working memory, you hold it in conscious mind and broadcast it to all of the areas that need it, so we can say that conscious information is information which is available in the brain, basically, globally available, and this is the global workspace model. we begin to know the areas that are being concerned, but there is still a lot of mysteries to be solved and one of the miss electricity is that from experiment to experiment we see nonconscious process asking go to very far deaths in the brain so actually we will see that in the next slide, we have shown that word recognition can occur in the brain, nonconsciousness, face recognition can occur in the brain unconsciously but even
much higher levels like the meaning of the word is being prosed without your consciousness, with numbers you access the mathematical parts of your brain, and a gesture this is activated in your member, other aspects like the sound of the words or an emotional word or art, whether it is an error you made, all of that can be computed nonconsciously, so we understand how there can be so much nonconscious finding, but it is all the same, it is local in time, it is small, and conscious activity is being amplified and connected boldly across the brain, that is the main finding from point imaging. >> let me turn to you and talk about how much of our thinking is unconscious. >> well, behavioral research psychologists for many years have been looking at every day kinds of judgment and decisions to see if we can tease apart to what degree they occur consciously and unconsciously.
and it is a very exciting time, a picture is emerging of the mind as having two very different ways of thinking. one is the slow, deliberate, conscious kind of thought we are all familiar with, but the other that we refer to as the adaptive unconscious seems to be quite powerful and sophisticated, and able to monitor what is going on around us, interpret incoming information, make decisions even for us. now, as eric said, dividing the mind into the conscious and unconscious does remind us of sigmund freud, a brilliant third who also talked about conscious and unconscious processing. i think his emphasis was on a some what different kind of unconscious, he mostly referred to the unconscious as the seat of primordial instincts, the urges that arise in childhood that we are often trying to repress and keep hidden. the modern rieu certainly doesn't deny that powerful kind
of unconscious, but expands it to look at more sophisticated higher level kind of thinking that we couldn't live without. now, how do we know in? well, there are some very interesting experiments going on, fraud was at a disadvantage he didn't have the modern methods we now have to look at conscious and unconscious processing. and a number of experiments have been done, some similar to the -- that was talked about where words are flashed at very quick speeds so that people don't see them consciously but then we look at how that influences later judgments and decisions. so in one early experiment by john bard, for example, people were flaciald words they didn't see consciously, and then they were given a description of a guy named donald, donald was described as in his apartment and a sales pan came to the door and abruptly extent the salesman away, and in another segment he goes a hardware store and buys a
gadget and immediately demands his money back, well, what do we make of donald? is he kind of hostile or is he just assertive well it depended on the words the people saw in the first part of the experiment. some of the participants saw words, again, saw in quotation marks because they didn't consciously see these words about words that had to do with hostility, hostile, unfriendly, unkind whereas those in controlled conditions, table and chair and indeed the ones who saw the flashes of the words connoting unkindness, thought donald wasn't a veryice guy and thought, man he is kind of hostile, whereas those in the controlled condition who saw the neutral words kind of gave him to the benefit of the doubt and said well donald is just kind of assertive and many experiments of this type have portrayed the adaptive unconscious as being able to interpret information, to learn many things about the world and an example there is as
children we just soak up language automatically and we are not doing it consciously, monitoring the world, we are able to keep track of what is going on around us while we focus consciously on one thing but there is part of our mind which is making sure something important isn't happening elsewhere. and some of the most interesting work is on decision making, so many of us when faced with an important choice of taking out that proverbial piece of paper and making a line and making a deliberate list of pluses and minuses to tell us what to do, but experiments have shown that may not be the best way, that if we are overly conscious about a decision we can sometimes talk ourselves into thinkingly prefer something we really tonight. and it might be better to by all means we should get as much information as we should about the decision, we shouldn't be so impulsive that we just go with the first thing that comes to mind, but once we have all of that information, it is best to let it percolate unconsciously
and bubble up into a preference, without overly being overly deliberative and thoughtful about it. all of this work suggests that the adaptive unconscious is vital to our survival, that it works in hand with consciousness to guide us in ways that really make us the smartest piece sister on earth. >> rose: okay. nicholas tell me about the disorders that come. >> well have have learned. >> rose: about the stores of consciousness in the last ten, 12, 15 years and the things we have learned are kind of shocking to most people and haven't quite been fully understood. and we have, what we have seen over the last ten years of reresearch of people who appear to be unconscious for many years who sometimes reemerge, i have a video to begin to show one example of this, this is a man named don herbert who was a fire fight her upstate new york and i think he is the most extreme case that i am personally aware of, mr. herbert was rescued from a burning building, this is
actual footage of his rescue, and it was found that he was unconscious for a period of time, a few weeks, and then slowly recovered consciousness and not to the point after this injury where he could walk, he could speak a little bit, but then he regressed back and he was out of contact. and he appeared unresponsive in the family, brought him to events, you can see here that he is with his children slumped in the chair and not apparently aware and for nine years this remained the case until about a month before a dramatic event, his physician in the nursing facility decides to put him on a cocktail of medications and one day his family got a call, and they saw this. >> i love you. >> mr. herbert was weak and what you, awake and what you see is that he is alert and he asked how long have i been gone?
amazingly although he was out of contact ten years this man, once he reemerged and was told what the date was, could actually understand that he was bonn for ten years. and as he reaches out, to grab his son you can see his hand go down because his son was four years old when he had this injury and now she 14, and when. >> rose: and he imagined this. >> and when the son grabs his hand he says oh, my god because he can't believe it. >> it is just a remarkable thing, the man who you see him reach out to grab and call simon, is his uncle, the family was quiet every time someone came in the room because mr. herbert was blind, and minded by the injury and then he would identify people by voice, and as each new person came in they tried to test him to see who he was and that was his uncle and everybody said who is that and as he spoke, that is his reaction, he instant think realized it is simon and reached out and tried to grab him and so that -- this case is sort of an end point of me to that kind of
phenomenon and we have learned that the human brain can remain capable of much higher levels of consciousness and not show that capacity for indefinite periods of time so it really underwrites and interest in trying to understand what are mechanisms of trying to regain controls of consciousness and the upper thalamus and brain stem play a role in that press and trying to understand and study that. the other major finding that has happened over the last ten years in this area is the rec mission that some patients have recovered consciousness, but because they don't show motor function, they don't make it evident. and this presents a very scary and very important problem, where you may look at a person and they appear in the vegetative state and we can identify either through measurements of eeg that they are showing activity in their brain that is indicative of them carrying out these conscious mental operations. turning that in to a way for patients like that to
communicate remains an undemonstrated challenge. and you can see that is sort of the other -- >> ros how do you think they might meet that challenge? >> well, there are groups all over the world, stan's group is working on it, we are working on it. >> it is a huge motivation for people like me working in normal subjects to try to discover signatures of consciousness from brain imaging that may be applied to these patients so we can begin to do that with eeg, so that the hope is we may have to put a few electrodes on the head and analyze the signal and this can be done in real-time now, and find the signatures of consciousness and because it is a big event in the brain like i showed you it is a big explosion of activity we are quite hopeful that this can be decked with simple methods. >> >> the advantage that it is extremely easy to use, it is not as complicated as imaging and if you can use that technique it will be very powerful.
what interests me, so, you can enhance the functioning of somebody with minimal conscious state but either electrical stimulation or by this cocktail, which is really a sedative, how does that work? >> this is one of the findings that people who get the sedative medication ambien have these paradoxical recoveries and what we think of the ambien effect is what we think about the that lamb milk brain effect .. i have a colleague at emery brown shows me this is similar to what happens in anesthesia as well let's take the anesthesia case that is probably sething we can really relate to, almost everyone in anesthetic their brain quiets and they get sort of less active and sedate and then there is a period of excitation, and in is a generic things, what you see is rhythms in the eeg continue over the frontal lobe of the brain and
the person gets a little disquieted what we think is going on with ambien that general phenomenon is underactive brain is release ago brake, the brake is put on because the 7 central thalamus is disconnected and not active and a combination of excitement in the cortex, releasing the brake of the thalamus and just like when we stimulate the thalamus the frontal part of the brain turns on and it takes itself for a ride like catching a wave, the most dramatic case a man that goes from a level well below where we started with a normal, in the brain stimulation to well beyond what we achieved in that study, reliably, every time he takes the drug. >> do i bet the impression that the study of consciousness is about understanding what stimulate the unconscious? >> consciousness appears like the tip of the iceberg, it is maybe two percent, five percent additional operations that you can do, they are very limited, and we try to understand what is
the margin there, so there are operations that cannot be done unconsciously, you can't calculate 23 times 14 unconsciously you have to have the information consciously in your work space. >> and another question, though, is whether the kind of nonconscious operations that he was talking about can be carried out in someone with a minimally conscious state. i mean have the feeling that you have to have the capacity for it, as it were, with full-blooded consciousness in order for these fancy, smart, nonconscious processes to take place. >> they may come later. >> yeah, yeah. >> it is an interesting point i am curious to get your -- the approach on this, tim. you very correctly make the point that freud's view of the unconscious was that it dealt primarily with instinctual drive but he did have an unconscious process which he called the preconscious unconscious which
had creativity and all of this kind of stuff, but the dissing shun you make between the unconscious you study and that aspect of unconscious, that farber is studying he moved easily into consciousness and your stays in the unconscious. >> i think the most people view the unconscious as perhaps the evolution system that was in existence for a long time before we acquired consciousness as a species, and i mean, i am spelling laying here but once we acquire consciousness, the connections weren't fully made sorry there are some things we just cannot access. >> but he is dealing with something that propagated from -- he is dealing with freud's preconscious. >> i think it is a little bit different, because for instance, if you work on some problem, like chess playing, you know, you begin to play chess and it is a very conscious effort, you really have to attend to it, but what has been shown is in --
>> i think high level pattern recognition can become quite automatic, and i mean, we see that in clinicians they can size up a really good clinician can size up diagnostically a patient very quickly, whereas the intern has to do this, it can be this, it can be this and so forth, but i think that is also a different kind -- i mean, this authenticity of skill is also different from what ken was talking about. >> i think that is part of it but there is much more, i think just this ability to process information and again language act question situation is a good example of that. a two-year-old isn't listening to commercial language tapes and studying vocabulary lessons, it is just stoking it up in a way that we all wish we could do as adults. >> rose: but i don't understand why we can't do it as adults. >> because the plasticity of the brain is so i enormous, enormous when you are young it can do these things. for example, a child, age two or
three or four, is a universal learner, they can learn any language that you expose them to. if you expose them in this critical period if you do this after puberty very difficult to learn a language and will never get the act extent right, more over, even more surprising, face recognition, two these-year-old child can learn the difference between 100, 200 different monkeys, if they are not exposed to monkeys in that period, all monkeys look the same to them. >> it is just absolutely amazing how the creative intellectual capabilities of your brain and mine is limited after a certain critical period, and this is why, you know, the mozarts of this world started out early in order to reach this extraordinary skill that they developed. >> rose: so you can show, for example, that the hand representation, particularly for
the left hand, which is the fingering on a musical, violin for example has a larger representation in professional violinists than people who don't play any instrument whatsoever. and if you started in early, started at an early age you have a much larger representation than a professional musician who started later. >> rose: is there anything happening to figure out how to make, to overcome this obvious reality of the dechina of plasticity and the ability to absorb new -- >> that's a very good question, it is one of the facts of life, that the brain goes through a maturation process which is the moment we have very little control over. >> rose: and it gets smaller too? >> there is a loss of connections with time, that is absolutely true. and certainly as you age, there is a further loss of connections, and a reduction in size, yes. >> and it is interesting. we don't really understand what
protects cognitive function with aging? but one thing that certainly helps -- >> rose:? >> physical exercise and intellectual, running at charlie rose, if you ever thought of taking up a program in the morning that would probably enhance your cognitive capability. have you ever thought of that? >> rose: i appreciate the argument, though, very much. okay so let me understand. this is all enormously exciting to me because suppose we had a way of increasing the amount of stuff we can load into our unconscious. >> well there is some research that shows that distracting consciousness actually enhances nonconscious processing. >> rose: ah. >> experiments where you give people a problem, they have a bunch of stimula, to evaluate new car to see which one is the best, and then you either ask them to think about it as much as they want or you distract them and give them something
very absorbing to do where they can't think about gliet and what happens? >> it is the people who are distracted who make the best choice. >> rose: and why is that? >> well, the idea is that by consciousness can intrude and get in the way of unconscious processing. >> rose: consciousness focuses on one or two points because it is limited. >> many processes are the same. in fact, many people think that -- >> rose: it can do many things at the same physical say time. >> greater bandwidth width. >> wow consciousness is very limited to what it can do. unconsciousness is much broader and although we know very little about the true nature of creativity, one emerging theme that comes out of this is that if you are trying to solve a mathematical problem and solve any intellectual problem you keep focusing on it and you may get stuck, taking a break, taking a shower, going forward, playing golf you come back refreshed, and often during the other activity, boom, the idea
will come to you. >> rose:. >> what was happening in those nine years with the fireman? >> we don't know. i think -- we don't know of course because we didn't measure it but i think we can have some understanding of it and take a guess. i think is that his brain was i don't know economy underactive because of the injuries that it suffered. and that when it woke up, it didn't really wake up enough. this is the thing. it is obvious operationally to us when somebody truly is conscious, and the best example i have for one of these kind of situations is a man who looked vegetative that we studied three years after it had become clear only to one person after a year, that he could move his head a little bit to signal and identify words and communicate. and this man did not have a consistent communication system when we first saw him we tried thing with eeg and eventually put ahead mouse on his head one of our medical student found and started using a computer and this patient was the first patient to send us an e-mail, so
somebody reaches out and extends you an e-mail, then you know they are conscious. and that is kind of the final operational test. >> rose:. >> the cruellest thing is to be conscious and people think you are unconscious. >> terrible, terrible. >> i think that is one thing that understood writes and puts more energy into this than anything else. >> that is why in is such a terrific event because god knows how many people are in this sort of state and this ultimately is a way of being able to overcome it. i means we at a very early stage of this. >> rose: very early. >> but i think it might be worth pulling this together and the idea of doing deep brain stimulation first occurred in the treatment of parkinson's disease and we heard about that. then it was applied by helen mayberg to depression. this is in completely new application of this. >> rose: deep brain similar lace. >> deep brain. he argued that the cortex seems to be -- deep down in the thalamus there isn't enough activity to keep the cortex going, so if we artificially stimulated the thalamus he could
awaken up pretty much like this forward propagation you see here. >> can i come back to a point that was mentioned earlier, we portrayed the unconscious as smart set of process which it is and hence the term adaptive unconscious but doesn't mean it is perfect. one thing about nonconscious thinking is it does categorize very quickly and be a little rigid and there is one school of thought that this is the seed of over categorizing someone based on their race or gender or what have you, and one thing consciousness is do at that, to undo that, i may have had this quick reaction about somebody, but that is wrong i ought to think otherwise and so there is a correction process that consciousness is very good at. >> rose: that's exactly right. >> the frontal cortex. >> this is how you create insight, the fact that you can take partial information and the brain compares it to previous
experiences, previous knowledge, and make a more learned, rational historical judgment, francis quick who was the most important biologist of our lifetime devoted the last 30 years of his life. >> i would say. >> to studying consciousness. and in all fairness you have to say that he made us aware that there is a problem that shou be studied but made relatively little progress. >> rose: he said in 1994 book your joys and sorrows your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity are, in fact, no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. >> wow know, hip crates 500 bc said the same thing .. fran situation knew that before but it is very interesting. >> we are at an early stage this understanding, but the progress in the last two decades has been quite spectacular one couldn't have had this conversation ten years ago. >> this is me in my very limited
way. you. >> >> rose: consciousness we are talking about understanding unconsciousness. >> both. >> no understanding both because one of one of the things we want to know is what are the mechanisms. >> rose: that transfers one to the other? >> right. what is it that makes this sound the way it is? and why are some things, things we are consciously aware of in others, and others stay below, so i mean the two can be studied in tandem and that is a kind of a coevolutionary science, but it isn't all about the unconscious. >> what is really attractive about this if we understand it further is there are a number of different ways of thinking about things, one is unconscious and the other is conscious, each has their own strength, so if you will evolve two different kinds of mental processes to deal with different kinds of that information, it would be interesting to see how far this
is culled back in an evolution way. these are deep questions that will occupy us for many more charlie rose programs. >> rose: i think excitement about this. so can i say, as sort of a journalistic wide-ranging way that study of the brain is a frontier of medicine and science today, understanding consciousness and impact of unconsciousness is on the cutting edge of understanding the brain? >> absolutely. >> rose: okay. let me go back to you and go around the clock here. tell me what you hope will be the next breakthrough. >> i would like to see a way for us to identify somebody who is conscious and get them out. if they are aware and able to communicate with the world, i would like to see that be manager we know how to do immediately, systemically and with scientific, medical skill. >> i would also like to see how we can take patient whose may not get to the level where they can completely communicate to the highest level they can get
from where they are at and what is available to them and both of these are sort of really future goals. >> i think there has been kind of a copernicus revolution in science where we thought consciousness was this special thing that distinguished us from other species and there has been this onslaught of research narrowing it and showing everything the unconscious can do, i think it is perhaps time for that to retreat a little bit and show that the role of consciousness in the processing. i think stan's work is doing this, to a large extent, to see what really is special about consciousness. >> for me, the challenge is to identify coherent signature of consciousness. this would be markers in brain activity that would a person labels a person states he is conscious and the channel is to make it available for normal people, for impaired patients, for anesthesia, for sleep, to have a coherence story about what makes the state of the brain conscious or not.
>> yes. indeed. and i am really preoccupied by a question that affects both unconscious processing and conscious processing and that is how is information integrated? how is it that a sensory signal from ear and from the eye is integrated so that i see you as speaking? and something very deep about that. it has to be understood before we can understand consciousness because we do know that what gets into consciousness is by and large highly integrated, so the really deep question for me is about integration of information. >> consciousness is not a problem i have worked on but when i think of -- as throughout the question, i come orinally from psychiatry, and when schizophrenia disorders of consciousness, hallucinations
and delusions how do they come about? what is happening to consciousness? what happens when other kind of things -- patients who are actively hallucinating are actively deluded how this affects their behavior. there is one other point that is not a direct answer to your question that we see very nicely here, and that you and i have talked about repeatedly. but we are talking here is the emergence of a new biology of mind and new understanding of mind and this is a synthesis, a coming together of psychology on the one hand and brain science on the other, and the two are inseparable, without a good psychology you can't make progress in the biology, and without the biology you will never understand the underlying mechanism so we are seeing here in action this marriage, this synthesis of the mind. >> rose: i have been thinking over this over the weekend. is it clear that freud would have wanted to be a neurokrienls? >> without a doubt. >> without a doubt. >> he said i am giving up biology because it is so immature, it can't handle the questions that i am interested
in. i know that when biology comes along and deals with this psyche hodge cal problems, they are going to change it, it is going to all fall apart because i haven't been able to test these things rigorously. so he was quite modest. the problem with psychoanalysis is not with prude. the problem is the people that came after him did not begin to apply the empirical methods until recently. >> rose: to reject it. the other thing i am not sure i understand is the capacity of the unconscious. and its consequences. as a measure of intelligence as we commonly think of it. >> to what degree is intelligence determined by unconscious mental processes? the if you asked before it is a conscious process. >> there are many different skills. if it involves creativity it may very well be importantly dependent on upon unique parts
of unconscious if you come up with wisdom you may come up with a different answer. >> wisdom, conscious, creativity, who knows. >> i mean, the vision and the hands to do it. this is all largely unconscious. >> yes, yes, yes. >> >> rose: so what are we doing next time? >> well this is a broad subject. so we are dealing here with sort of the global features of consciousness. next time we are going to take up something called ignosia, this also comes from freud, people used to think blindness is as a result of defect in their eye and he discovered a patient who his eye was perfectly normal but he had a defect in the high reaches of the visual system and he developed the word ignosia a defect from vision which comes from a cortical region and now have people that have face blindness, that can't recognize faces, people who have difficulty with music recognition so we can check
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